City of Lawrence treating water for unpleasant taste and odor caused by algae

photo by: Mike Yoder

A treatment tank is pictured at the Clinton Water Treatment Plant in this file photo from 2010.

The City of Lawrence is treating water from Clinton Lake for an unpleasant taste and odor caused by algae.

Lawrence has two major sources for its drinking water: the Kansas River and Clinton Lake. The Clinton Water Treatment Plant is currently treating water with elevated levels of MIB (2-methylisoborneol), a byproduct of naturally occurring algae, according to Municipal Services and Operations spokesperson Josh Carson. Carson said the MIB poses no health risk to residents or their pets but may cause a noticeably earthy smell and taste in the water.

Carson said the city has increased treatment to eliminate as much of the smell and taste difference as possible. He said people have different sensitivity levels to MIB, and that some can detect it at very low levels while others may not notice any change. He said it’s not uncommon for the city to see such changes in taste and odor a few times in spring and summer, and that in many cases it goes unnoticed and is resolved in one to three days.

Regarding which areas of town might be noticing the taste and odor issues, Carson explained that both the city’s Clinton Lake and Kansas River treatment plants are connected to the same water distribution system, but that generally residents receive water primarily from the plant closest to them. To limit the number of customers who are receiving water from Clinton Lake, Carson said the city is pumping more water out from the Kansas River plant.

Lawrence water customers experiencing a strange taste and/or odor with their water can submit a report online at


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